Saturday, May 01, 2004

Luongo Lifts Canada over Latvia

Robert Luongo showed the faithful why he is considered one of the better goaltenders in the game these days, his second period performance keeping a pesky Latvian team off the board. Luongo by far was the best player on the ice Friday as his Canadian team mates took a two goal lead and sat on it for the rest of the game, a strategy that would have been fatal had it not been for the stellar play of Luongo.

Patrice Bergeron and Scott Niedermayer scored the Canadian goals giving Canada a 2 –0 lead by the two minute mark of the second period. After that the Canadians were content to sit on the lead and leave the bulk of the work to Luongo. The Florida Panther Vezina trophy nominee, turned aside 31 shots on the way to his shut out, taking the bulk of his shots in the second and third periods.

The surprise of the night was the choice of Sergei Naumov to tend to the nets for Latvia, as NHL veteran Arturs Irbe was left on the bench. The Latvian coach was hoping to catch Canada off guard with the little know Naumov playing goal. Naumov who played some IHL, ECHL and Roller hockey did an admirable job for Latvia, though he wasn’t tested too severely by the Canadian squad facing only 32 shots, many of them from the peripheral part of the ice. However, for him it was a great game holding Canada to two goals in what many perceived to be a David and Goliath storyline.

Canada remains unbeaten in the World Championships but has yet to play any of the traditional power house squads, which judging by their lack of scoring may be a good thing. There is a definite power outage on the front lines of this team, for whatever reason they are having a hard time adjusting to the larger ice and the peculiar international rules. With their next game coming up against Germany on Sunday, Canada will need to get their forwards to start to take the play deep into the opposing end. When they get there they'll run into an old friend, Washington Capital goaltender Olaf Kolzig is expected to play for Germany in Sunday's match, which should be a good challenge for the Canadian squad.

Even with a star caliber goaltender like Luongo in the nets, playing the bulk of the final two periods in your own end of the rink is only asking for trouble. Defense can win championships, but too much defensive means that your opponent is getting too many chances. Yes defence can win you a championship, but you need some offense to win a game. It might be time to take a few chances and lead the rush down the ice, Luongo is a pretty impressive insurance policy. Team Canada’s Coach Babcock needs to get his team out of its shell, a few more goals in the goals for column, should go a long way to helping this team defend its title.

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